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Thursday, February 12, 2015


Frida Kahlo, 1937, photographed by Toni Frissell for Vogue Magazine article,
"Senoras of Mexico" from the Library of Congress, American Art Archives
IN TIME FOR ST. VALENTINE’S DAY--Just how famous one must become to when generations from now your love letters might be found catalogued in the Library of Congress? 

Rule of thumb for public domain items (no longer covered by copyrights) is about 75 years.  In searching the LOC stacks online after a recent visit in person to the hallowed halls, I miss-clicked looking for info on the recent Magna Carta exhibition and ended up finding a love letter between artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) and photographer Nickolas Muray (1892-1965).

Now, curious, I read the handwritten love letter that was penned by Kahlo when she was 32 years old on Feb. 27, 1939.  She posted it from Paris to Muray in New York City.  "My Adorable Nick" is officially catalogued in the Archives of American Art.

The love affair is well documented in Salomon Grimberg’s book “I Will Never Forget You.”

from the Library of Congress, American Art Archives
Muray (nee Miklos Mandl) emigrated to New York in 1913 from Hungary and post Ellis Island became Nickolas Muray.  He opened his professional photo studio in 1920 and by mid-decade he was photographing the likes of Martha Graham, Florence Reed, Langston Hughes, Helen Hayes, Paul Robeson, Babe Ruth, James Joyce, Gloria Vanderbilt, Jean Cocteau and even Eugene O’Neill and others.

Nickolas Muray, 1932 by Carl Van Vechten
Library of Congress
In 1931, he and noted illustrator Miguel Covarrubias had become fast friends and traveled to Mexico.  On that trip Muray met Frida Kahlo, a skilled artist and wife of icon Mexican artist Diego Rivera.

Tall, handsome and a skilled Olympic fencer (represented USA) Muray was physically the opposite of Frida’s husband artist Diego Rivera.

A ten year love affair between Nickolas and Frida ensued.  And, it wasn’t until the early 1940s that it broke off when he realized she would really never leave Rivera.

The depth of the affection toward Muray is evident in the letter shown here as a paean to St. Valentine’s Day.

Editor’s note: Because the Muray Estate still controls copyright to his images I will not post any here, but you may go to his website
The website’s gallery shows Muray’s remarkable portrait style, which includes easily recognized images of James Joyce, Gretta Garbo, Cole Porter, D.H. Lawrence, George Bernard Shaw, Langston Hughes, Charlie Chaplin and Babe Ruth, among others.  Truly excellent portraits.  He continued celebrity/commercial photography late into his career and is one of the many Hollywood studio photographers commissioned to take images of Marilyn Monroe and others.  He died in 1965 in the midst of a fencing match.

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